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Do you think the future of teachers could be in jeopardy?

"We don't replace teachers, by the way. We believe that teachers should be empowered, not replaced."

This statement got me thinking - there's a new wave of 'MOOCs' (Massive Online Open Courses) that have recently popped up (Udacity/coursera/edX) and with education available to potentially everyone, I feel like it's not a big leap to say there could be big changes in the future. One thing I'm trying to grasp is how 'MOOCs' and traditional schools, teachers, and universities might coexist.

I love the idea of using technology in education because I don't see why there should be limits on what it can accomplish. Maybe one day (far in the future) programs can be better teachers than people, and at the very very least more efficient and effective at certain levels/areas. And I'm thinking it'll be a lot cheaper. So economically, what will that mean for the future of our education system?

It's hard to imagine replacing a master teacher who has really sharpened their 'art', but it's not too hard for me to imagine replacing the majority of teachers that have not reached this level of expertise.

Also, to clarify, I'm not attacking teachers (I want to be one one day haha!). Maybe this is too much speculation, but I'd still love to hear people's thoughts.

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    Oct 8 2012: The future of teachers and the traditional school system is not in jeopardy; there are a lot of things as far as human interaction and connections are concerned that differentiates a good and effective teacher from a computer program.
    But the mode of teaching should not be as it has always been.
    It would not be wise to do away with the traditional school system as if it is a total failure that could be turned a success by online learning. Even online learning has its inadequacies.
    The best approach is the intergration of online learning aids with the traditional learning modes.
    • Oct 15 2012: I think you're quite right in that last regard. A combination of each is likely most effective. There are some things that seem to be irreplaceable, like the human interaction element of it. But based on my own experience, there are some things that online learning is clearly better at -watching recorded videos allows for rewinding, there are interactive simulations, and peers all over the world.

      However, in my awe of the potential in online learning, I see that maybe I've overlooked some of its inadequacies (age group, discussion/debate complications, nuances of subject matter). Definitely things to think about when pushing for reform.
  • Nov 7 2012: I wrote about this - whether technology will replace machines - in an obscure little magazine called BarbicanLife. Elect to read the magazine online, and look at the issue which says 'Travels with Charlie'. You may find that interesting. In it I mention Professor Sugata Mitra, who looks at this issue - in fact it was his project which is portrayed in the film Slumdog Millionnaire ! Our capacity to learn is amazing. But we do still need teachers, because they do something else, other than just pass on information. They give of themselves.
  • Nov 6 2012: I believe teachers will always be needed given that we still have quite a lot of people around the world who don't have access to the Internet.
  • Oct 9 2012: No way it's the way that learning is viewed that will be altered there is always a need for a competent teaching ///facilitator.One who can guide and flow with the students thoughts and ideasand lead them to informed discovery. And from that experience leave with them the desire to explore for more information on the topics tackled
  • Oct 23 2012: If there were no need for teachers we would have been fine with just textbooks. Actually, there are many that acquire superb knowledge simply reading. A teacher offers more.

    Now, do I believe that teachers that teach simply lecturing at the front of a classroom is doomed...yes. The way one teaches and presents material is forever changed.. The new wave, I believe, will be the hybrid/flipped classroom. I also see publishers creating material and faculty lazily using that material with no content of their own. In the end I foresee many class facilitator with a single content expert behind them reducing the total number of content experts needed in a teaching profession.

    In the end teachers will always teach.
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    Oct 15 2012: Online learning lacks the feedback, discussion, and the social interface that is required in learning. How would you learn the "arts" online. Online learning is the current craze and is a cash cow. The founder of the University of Phoenix has become a billionaire in four short years. Testing and grading is suspect and most have dubed online as diploma mills. Pay your money and take the sheep skin.

    However the integration of 21st century technology and a system where the onus is on the student would be the best of all worlds. I call this competent / non-competent system of modular instruction where the instructor is a mentor / facilator. Students work at their speed of learning and follow a course map. They can excell academically while maintaining their grade grouping to ensure social development.

    We learned a lot from the PISA Exams when we scored in the bottom third of the bottom third of the countries participating. Singapore blew all of the countries out of the water.

    In Pat Gilberts conversation Was Abraham Lincoln a hero or a traitor we find that there is more to history than what we are told. I had heard some of this but as I read, listened, and viewed I was forced to conduct confirmation research. In school we almost Dietize Lincoln. If you read Lincolns papers on Colonization we find that he would be closer to a KKK in todays terms and the war was about economics. If you want to really shock your history teacher express these facts as you find them. He will quickly return to the text book and the glory of Lincoln in freeing the slaves. Did he really?

    What do you know of the Gietner model of economics .... The Austrian Model of economics. We are about to go over a fisical cliff. Why. What caused it. Economics a essential subject in the real world. Does your school offer it. We are now locked into STEM and high stakes testing. Bad deal.

    So many questions so little time. Sorry to ramble. 2K is never enough.

    All the best. Bob.
  • Oct 10 2012: Not really, Matthew. You see try as they might, scientists can't replace teachers in classrooms, they can just improve teaching aids. Teachers will always be in demand because they add a human touch to the teaching process without which it is really difficult to have effective learning as well as proper assessment. Teachers are humans so they can understand what is going on in the minds of children, not just academic doubts but also the day to day problems they face in school. So teachers do seem like an indispensable resource for educational institutions. I guess we won't be getting rid of them too soon!
    • Oct 15 2012: Hrm, yes I forgot about the extra baggage that students bring to a classroom, an important influence on their learning. From everyone's responses, I'm leaning towards an integration of both online and traditional as the best approach. I'm also coming to the conclusion that the more independent the learner, the more they stand to gain from online learning.

      However, keep in mind that it's not exactly a 'program' teaching learners. It would probably be recorded videos and things like that. There would also be possible feedback from students all over the world (if they're all working on the same thing). Not quite the 'human touch', but it's a very one on one type of thing that has potential.
  • Oct 10 2012: People who teach will always be in high demand.

    People who get jobs in schools with the title "teacher" had better become much more effective, because they now have competition that is becoming much more effective.
    • Oct 15 2012: Haha, good point, it's an important distinction.
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    Oct 10 2012: If we continue the current patterns then YES. Education is a multi billion dollar industry from textbook writers/publishers, test developers, educators that have exploited the system and devised a nest egg factory, unions, and corporations that sell all of the associated educational products.

    As Edward said the model will change but I see a teacher/facilitator as a part of any system that replaces the Bismark system of the 1800's that we are currently tied to.

    Singaproe broke the code and we have not. We (US) believe that the correct answer is the goal. In the Singapore model the application is the proof of the pudding.

    The other obvious factors are the interference of the state and federal government into education. The unions not allowing advancement in order to protect the unworthy and inept teachers. The tying of students scores to the teachers evaluations and raises. High stakes testing. and the beat goes on.

    The latest run on schools is the "Parent Trigger Law". It may be well meaning, however, if I taught at a school and the parents ran the administration and the teachers out ... I would sue for my wages and run out of that town as fast as I could run and never look back. Would you apply to teach at that school.

    Teachers are indeed in jeapordy. We are allowing the stupid and greedy to undermine the system. However, the need still exists for this valued asset.

    • Oct 15 2012: You point out a lot of important aspects. The textbook thing is definitely a pet peeve of mine. I haven't heard of the 'Parent Trigger Laws' before but taking a brief look, it's hard to take a stance. To try to be pragmatic, if it shows meaningful results (I'm reluctant to just place blind faith in test scores), then I'm all for it. I'll also mention that the 'correct answer is the goal' is a part of our system because of the system of testing (I'd imagine).

      Do you think online learning would have a positive impact on any of this or possibly be just another complication?
  • Oct 9 2012: when i look at this and kahn acad and the like i see the role of teachers changing. not being replaced. what will be replaced is the lesson. the teacher can now do the job of facilitator and reinforce the lecture that the child (student) watched at home. it is great for parents as well. it is something for their child to do while they cook dinner or whatnot. man, the futures so bright, i gotta wear shades. i worry more about the future of squid-ward. of course, we need a computer in every home or the disadvantaged will lose out for another generation. there must be a ted talk on that
    • Oct 15 2012: You're optimism is refreshing. And there's definitely something to that idea of reinforcement. I had one class like that and it was effective for me. But perhaps because of the content material, or the students slacking with the videos, other students struggled. Nevertheless, if teachers can get beyond writing notes and can facilitate the problem solving/critical thinking aspect and engage in discussions and such, it'll be a bright future indeed.

      P.S. Funny you mention the need for computers. I'm not sure if it's exactly what you're looking for (I have yet to watch it) but check it out:
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    Oct 8 2012: There've been numerous threads on traditional education and online education.

    I think that traditional education needs to focus more on the social interactions, communication, and collaboration, rather than the actual content of a subject.
    • Oct 15 2012: I'd imagine then that you would think traditional education reformed is better at pursuing that focus?

      Also, I'll say based on what I remember of my readings of Dewey, he advocated starting with subject. The heart of it, the questions(not terminology). The different 'subjects' are all the accumulation of past findings, and these findings had very real motivations. While trying to illuminate the subject, and get the learner to really 'see' it for what it is, then the teacher could use methods that encourage social interactions and collaboration. They would be methods but the emphasis would remain on the content.

      I'm not so sure how a model that focuses on the social interactions and collaboration would work, but perhaps I'm not thinking big enough. Motivation is a big thing and what you mentioned might gain ground on that front. But group learning is a tricky thing also.
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        Oct 15 2012: I think James means to focus on social interactions (discourse) and collaboration not as content but as a pedagogical strategy for teaching/learning the subject content.

        What James describes is very common now in schools and engages students much better than lecture.
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    Gail .

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    Oct 8 2012: I love learning. As a result, put me in a group of youngsters, and I inspire learning. Kids love to be around me. We are always learning something. We don't always know where our time together will lead us, but it always leads us to learning something. I love to be around kids. I learn so much by being with them.

    My problem with teachers is that teachers I know love teaching. What a different frame of reference that is!

    We are all always teaching, whether we know it or not. The current educational paradigm has teachers teaching that teachers are superior and that children are inferior. (A child must call the teacher Mr./Ms Lastname, but - in the south - the lunchroom lady is called Miss First name - clearly a tradition that supports a class system. In return the teacher and the lunchroom lady call the child by his/her first name. It's a way of saying "know your place"; "I'm superior to you"' "I'm smarter, better, etc., than you. This destroys self-esteem.

    Unfortunately, our current educational paradigms are money-based. Money is a scarcity based concept. It encourages fear and loss of self-esteem, which is countered with ego driven arrogance that I was assaulted with by all but one of my teachers. When I discovered software that took the teacher at the head of the class out of the picture, I discovered the joy of learning. The appearance of the Internet expanded that joy exponentially.

    Education must change. It's failures are greatly evident. The damage that our current educational paradigms is inflicting on our young is enormous. When we take money out of the picture, those who are good teachers can teach. When we take government-paid teachers out of the picture, then those who are good teachers will become evident by virtue of the numbers of children who want to learn from them.

    There is so much evidence out showing how bad our current ed. paradigm is that education will be forced to change.
    • Oct 14 2012: First off, I'm glad you eventually found the joy of learning. I think if an educational system can achieve that, it scores some major points. I'm not quite sure what you mean though when you say 'take money out of the picture' - could you explain? In what sense is the educational system is money-based? (I don't mean to imply it's not, I'm just not sure what comes to mind for me is what you mean to say.)
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        Gail .

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        Oct 15 2012: I learned the joy of learning when I was in my 30s. It had been scrubbed out of me in the educational system, as it is with almost all who enter therein.

        I am a proponent of a moneyless system. I've seen too much evidence of the damage that capitalism does to people and cultures. It is within that context that I answered the question.

        When those who love learning are the teachers, rather than those who love money or the right to be superior to children, education will change. Teachers should serve.

        Most of my learning is though technology. It offers information much more quickly. I can switch between text and videos on much. I can find original documents. I learned much about life by playing Donkey Kong (which tells you how old I am). I learned how to write using a program called "Grammatik". I prefer the Internet as I learn math, though I wish there were more math volunteers to answer questions on those sites.

        In the USA, the Dept of Ed exists to prepare students for global competition (according to its mission statement - that I learned about using technology). It doesn't exist to educate, which is why so much important information is left out of your so-called "education". It is also why so many lies are part of our educations.

        The current educational paradigm was established by people like Rockerfeller, who made it clear that he had no intention of educating people. It was his intent to create dependable workers. Real educations were for those monied few who were bred to be leaders.

        In today's age of specialization, we know more and more about less and less. The foundations upon which an education is built is entirely missing. That way, no one person can see how all the parts work together, unless one takes the time to educate one's self.

        Most Americans are functionally uneducated, no matter how many degrees they have.
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    Oct 8 2012: I see no reason to believe the teaching profession is immune from the influence of The Internet. The current model of school teaching will be changed, however extensively, by computer technology.